Accessories “make” an outfit in the same way the p2 (supportive media) “makes” a presentation. Consider the couple in the picture dressed for The Big Event. Both in their finest clothes pimped, plucked and polished to perfection each outfit is added to by their accessories. Importantly though, without the knuckleduster rings or the armour (!), both are beautifully presented. The media behind a speaker and behind their story should highlight, complement and complete the ensemble but, if it wasn’t there or failed due to technical issues, then Cinderella surely, would still go, beautifully, to the ball.

For the majority of presentations delivered, the supportive media IS the presentation. It’s the whole outfit. In fact, it is everything. Rather than an accessory, it has become the purpose. All the information is within the .pptx file. it is complete of itself. That’s rather like getting all dressed up, taking lots of selfies and not bothering going to the event. The p2 cannot be the purpose of a presentation. There has to be more to a presentation than simply the supportive media.

To expand the analogy though one should not minimise the value of accessories worn at a ball. Think of the necklaces and earrings, watches and cufflinks. Or body armour. Accessories complement the “look”. They should be chosen with care to fit with the planned ensemble. They should add value and interest. They should not, however, distract or detract. Their purpose should be to draw attention to the whole in a pleasing and engaging way. Not purely to be the focus of discussion. And so it should be with supportive media at presentations, they should be accessories. They should complement the message but not be the message. They should be chosen and constructed to fit with the message, not distracting or detracting from it. Their purpose is to keep the focus on the message in a pleasing and engaging way, not distract or be the focus of discussion.

Accessories complement an outfit. The supportive media should do the same for a presentation. If the perfect earrings (or body armour) can’t be found, the outfit still works. If IT fails at a presentation would your presentation still work? If it wouldn’t, or you haven’t prepared in this way, you are placing too much emphasis on the supportive media. Accessories accessorise, they shouldn’t be everything.

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Happy New Year

Happy New YearHappy New Year! Let’s make it a Happy and a New Year in presentations by ditching the standard slideware template and in particular Blue Wave with Times New Roman, centre justified. There really is a better way! And like your other New Year resolutions, this does actually have purpose and value behind it. Say goodbye to the old ways and welcome in the new by changing your presentation style.

Templates, unless specifically crafted by a professional for your particular use, really should be left behind in last year. Their value in delivering uniformity with brand colours and fonts may work in industry but in medicine (the majority of readers of this blog) they really have no place. There is no need for every presentation from one institution to be identical; their messages are not identical. Some institutions suggest their use is compulsory, “they” seldom attend the event and if the message is delivered with passion and impact without the template I’m sure “they” would be impressed. The visual conflict with the media is unhelpful and distracting. The colour scheme prescribed may not fit the message and it significantly limits slide “real estate”.

The use of the identical Microsoft template merely highlights a lack of creativity and desire to conform. Or laziness. This is the reason so many presentations use Times New Roman. Fonts should be chosen for their visual impact and ease of reading, ideally a non-serif font; Time New Roman is a serif font. “Default” is hardly the first message The Good Presenter wishes to impart to the audience, even before starting to speak. Centre justification makes script harder to read. The tradition of using this formatting style comes from books. Presentations are not books.

Make it a Happy New Year for your presentations by making a resolution to ditch the “default” template and be a little more creative. Don’t use a template that restricts creativity and space. Don’t use the default font. Don’t centre justify. Have a Happy New Year, when it comes, wherever you are.

Happy New Year

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Structure helps retention

Structure helps retention of a message. A presentation is never a data download. It is simply not possible for an audience to retain large volumes of data delivered through a presentation. To think otherwise is both naive and in denial of large quantities of psychological science. As well as lots of personal experience. It is possible however for an audience to take information away from a presentation but that is dependent upon the nature of delivery. A memorable structure will help. The audience can re-build the presentation later from this structure and upon that information may be reconstructed.

No audience memorises a presentation. It is to be hoped no presenter memorises a presentation either. Structure, however, allows for recollection of information, retrieved or rebuilt to fit the understanding received during the presentation. That structure is best if implicit but even explicit and practised structures will allow the audience, if engaged, to retrieve the information at a point in the future. Exactly the structure or technique used is a combination of personal insight, wisdom, creativity and perhaps even luck. There is no one single way. Ultimately, if it works, then it is effective, no matter whether it is cheesy, cliched or frequently used.

There is an unexplained magic in the number three, Whether that is three words; “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, three entities; “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” or three parts of a presentation (p1,p2 and p3). Since Aristotle, the use of three steps within a presentation has been shown to be very effective. This may be set up as- the issue, the possible solutions and the answer. Challenging the audience at the beginning with their need pulls them into the presentation to follow and find an answer to this. This simple structure engages an audience.

structure helps retentionAcronyms rarely seem effective. They seem memorable to those constructing them but are frequently lost in both the mists of time and the multiplicity offered. What seems clearly singular in construction seldom is. Alliteration also adds awful aims. Things are usually so forced that they don’t don’t flow as was hoped for in construction. Top 10 is no more memorable than the Top10 Christmas No1s; you have to know them to figure any of it out. And all of these leave the simple list of facts sadly miles behind.

Structure helps retention of a message. This must be more than simply a list, acronyms rarely seem effective and alliteration is always awful. Presentation works well with the rule of threes.

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